It was a dark and stormy night. No, not so dark as if the room weren't illuminated by the glowing computer monitor, nor so stormy as if it had been a New England nor'easter instead of a Seattle drizzle. But dark and stormy nonetheless.
Lane sat at the computer considering his options. "How shall I impart unto my friends and family the multitudinous plethora of activities which permeated the year that imminently approaches its nadir?" Lane often had deep thoughts like that, replete with multi-syllabic vocabulary, but these would not do for a holiday letter whose purpose was to inform and amuse its readers. "No," Lane thought, "I must make this year's annual holiday letter more readable, preferably by beginning with an eye-grabbing opening sentence, something that will draw the reader in."
After all, Lane was just completing his class in Fiction Writing at the University of Washington. He knew the elements of a good story. And he was determined to use them in his annual holiday letter.
Granted, he felt that he still had more to learn about writing fiction, which was well and good, because he was enrolled in a three-course program in Fiction Writing, and he was only just completing the first of the three classes. He hoped, therefore, that he could be forgiven if his chronicle of the year's events lacked the finesse he knew he could achieve once he completed his course of study.
But where to begin? Our protagonist sat staring at the blank screen, glowing in the dark room, listening to the patter of raindrops on the roof, considering all he'd done over the year, and how to chronicle it in the manner of a good story.
Lane remembered the transitions that occurred in his job at Premera Blue Cross during 2003, and he decided to start his holiday letter by describing things related to work and career. At the year's start he was on the HIPAA project, helping the company achieve compliance with regard to laws concerning privacy and standardization of the electronic transmission of health information. As that project wound down, he felt that he should plan ahead and not be left without employment.
Ah, this is good, thought Lane as he typed. A crisis moment. Some drama to make the story interesting. He described how he took classes at UW and earned his certificate in Internet Programming. And then he got an interview with the eBusiness team, and they offered him a position. Crisis averted. Story drama down the drain. Now Lane could simply describe his current position working on the web site where Premera's members, providers, and group administrators can access their account information, claim status, and eligibility.
Lane paused at the keyboard. "Oh, this is going to be boring," he lamented. "Surely my readers won't be interested in the details of my employment. I must come up with something more interesting."
"Travel!" he thought with new enthusiasm. "Travel is always interesting. I'll write about the places I went this year. I know everyone will want to hear about that."
Lane started to write about his trip to Alaska, but then he realized that he'd already chronicled the entire thing and posted it on the internet along with photos. Nothing he could say in his story would come close to capturing the magic as effectively as he'd already done.
"That's okay," he decided. "I'll write about my trip to New York for my high school reunion. Everyone will be thrilled to learn about going back to see all my old high school friends, even though I only knew a handful of the people who showed up at the reunion." Lane remembered how he had originally decided not to go to the reunion, and how a work-related training in Dallas the week before the reunion meant he could combine two trips into one. He thought about how his good friends Sherry and Joe were true to their word and what a good time he had seeing them. And how good it was to see Judy and Barbara, people he'd been completely out of touch with. But then he thought about Alan and Abby, who said they would be there and flaked out. And Michele, who made her own Alaska trip right at that same time. And all the people he knew and took classes with and did drama or played in the band with, who didn't show up. "No," he decided, "writing about this would be a complete bore."
"Well, there's still my trip to Reno for the bridge tournament." Lane thought about that, and then realized that he wouldn't even be leaving for Reno until Christmas day, and he planned to have sent his holiday letter to everyone long before that.
"But I've had such a busy year!" he exclaimed. "Just being in Seattle and doing all the things I do has been so full of thrilling adventures that I can share."
So Lane started to write about joining the Cascadian Chorale, a choral group that he was really enjoying being part of. And he wrote about his writing class at UW, and about volunteering as the webmaster for Rainbow Train. He wrote about new bridge partner, Asa, who he always enjoyed playing with, and who would be going to Reno with him. He wrote about having his new deck built, and his yard landscaped, and his house painted. He wrote about Rose, his dog, and how she still acted like a puppy even at the age of eleven. He wrote and wrote and wrote, and found no dramatic arc, no crisis moment, no climax, no reversal.
So he stopped writing and went back to reread what he'd written thus far.
"This stinks," he said to himself. "This is all boring. Nothing exciting happened this year. Nobody cares. It used to be fun to write this holiday letter when I could think of really clever ways of describing everything. But now it's just no fun anymore. If anyone wants to know what's going on in my life, they can just visit my web site. I have my stories posted there, and all my old holiday letters, and pictures of some of the year's adventures. And everyone knows that I wish them all the best for a wonderful holiday. That will just have to be good enough."
And so, without saving, Lane turned off his computer and took Rose for a walk around Greenlake. After all, it wasn't a dark and stormy night at all. It was a bright sunny Sunday afternoon, a rare thing for December in Seattle.
As they walked around the lake, Lane said to Rose, "You know, it feels good not doing a holiday letter this year." And she said, "Woof."